Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Invasion! Kentucky!

Dates: 14 August to 9 October, 1862


Union: Major General Don Carlos Buell, commanding the Army of the Ohio.

Confederate: Major Generals Edmund Kirby Smith and Braxton Bragg. Bragg commands the Army of Mississippi, Smith commands the Department of East Tennessee.

Prelude: There was more than one factor that finally stopped Buell from taking Chattanooga. He was already stopped by the twin raids of Colonels Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Hunt Morgan. However, Buell was not quite ready to abandon the operation just yet. The confederates had other ideas.

Bragg had been ordered to get his army to Chattanooga as part of a plan to knock Buell out of the way and lift any further threat to the city. Smith, as commander of the district of East Tennessee, had managed to get a small army together to invade Kentucky and bring that state into the Confederacy. With both his and Bragg’s troops, the hope was to draw Buell away and engage him in an area of their own choosing. Smith will have 10,000 troops with him, Bragg will bring 30,000.

14 August, 1862: Smith departs Knoxville and heads north towards Cumberland Gap, on the Tennessee border. Instead of driving for the gap, he orders his forces to bypass it to the west. This causes the Union garrison to flee the area.

28 August, 1862: Bragg departs Chattanooga and heads north, marching through the area of Forrest’s recent raid as first Sparta, then Carthage is reached. Turning north, they cross into Kentucky with the aim of severing the Federal supply lines.

30 August, 1862; Buell might have had the chance to take advantage of the situation and take Chattanooga. Perhaps he was thinking that Bragg could come back and lay siege to the city if the Union was holding there. Buell orders his army to pursue Bragg.

At Richmond, KY, Smith attacks a Union garrison, driving them off and opening the way for the Confederates to occupy Lexington.

As Buell heads to Kentucky, he leaves a garrison at Nashville in order to keep the city in Union hands.

2 September, 1862: Lexington, KY is in Confederate hands. The Kentucky State Legislature flees to Louisville.

For the next several days, the armies spent their time maneuvering, not bringing on any major engagements. The Confederates were creating a 60-mile front while Buell was playing catch-up.

15 September, 1862: Bragg’s army is fully in Kentucky as they reach Glasgow. After camping for the night, they continue north.

17 September, 1862: Bragg’s forces reach Munfordsville, where they force the small Union garrison to surrender.

Bragg continues marching north, making Buell think that the Confederates intended to take Louisville. The Federals respond by planning to concentrate their forces there. However, Bragg turns to the east, intending to link up with Smith’s force.

22 September, 1862: Bragg’s army reaches Bardstown. This clears the way for Buell to get between the Confederates and Louisville.

26 September, 1862: Bragg issues a proclamation, calling for the states of the Northwest to side with the Confederacy. This falls on deaf ears.

29 September, 1862: Buell reaches Louisville and concentrates his army there. Smith takes two divisions and makes a feint around Frankfort, drawing part of Buell’s troops their way.

Because there was now easy access to the Ohio River, Buell was able to resupply and reequip his troops so they can finally take the offensive.

1 October, 1862: Buell begins advancing from Louisville, throwing a feint towards Frankfort.

Bragg and Smith, their forces nearly combined, decide to detach half of their troops to defend Frankfort, while sending a division, under Major General William Hardee to Perryville. The remainder of Bragg’s forces went to Haroldsville, to the northeast.

7 October, 1862: As Buell’s main force approaches Perryville, they meet Hardee’s line, resulting in massive skirmishing. Hardee sends a massage to Bragg, who sends the division of Major General Leonidas Polk to reinforce against what was perceived was a part of Buell’s army.

What they ended up facing was a major part of the Union force.

8 October, 1862: Battle of Perryville: Bragg placed his two divisions to the northwest of the town, with Polk to the north and Hardee to the south. Buell is bringing in three corps. He placed his I Corps (Major General Alexander McCook) on the left flank, III Corps (Major General Charles Gilbert) holding the middle, and II Corps (Major General Thomas Crittenden) on the right.
Dawn: Buell sends his left wing forward in a attempt to outflank the Confederate line. One of the divisions going forward is led by Brigadier General Philip Sheridan. They get halfway to the town, past the Turner House, then stops to dig in.

10:00 a.m.: Having been alerted to the action at Perryville, Bragg rushes there and takes command of the situation. He orders two brigades to attack the Federal left flank.

2:00 p.m.: Polk sends in his brigades against McCook, pushing him back and collapsing the Union line. Just as the Federal were about to be out flanked one division of veterans holds the line and stops the Confederate attack. Sheridan was in a position to assist but was ordered not to move.

To the south, Crittenden was plagued by Confederate cavalry under Brigadier General Joseph Wheeler and was not engaged in the general battle.

4: 15 p.m.: One Confederate brigade is sent to attack Sheridan at Turner House. Sheridan was able to repulse that attack and then take the offensive. As the sun begins to set, the Federals push into Perryville itself. That evening, while in the town, they find themselves with no support and have to withdraw. Around the same time Buell, who has been hearing artillery all day, finally realizes that a major battle is underway. He sends the bulk of his army to the area.

The Confederates were able to push the Federals back until darkness brought an end to the fighting. When they saw that Buell was bringing up extra troops, Bragg orders his troops to pull back to Harrodsburg.

In what turned out to be the only major battle fought in Kentucky, the Federals lost 4349 in killed, wounded, and missing, mostly from McCook’s corps. The Confederates lost 3386.

9 October, 1862: Bragg pulls away from Perryville and joins up with Smith at Harrodsburg. There it was decided to pull out of Kentucky entirely.

It was not a total loss; there was a treasure haul of supplies that would sustain the Confederates through the winter.

Smith would soon be transferred to the Trans-Mississippi region where he will spend the rest of the war. His army would be the last major Confederate army to surrender in 1865.

Bragg would take the remainder of his army to Murfreesboro, where another battle awaited him.

Buell did not pursue Bragg or Smith and was relieved of command of the Army of the Ohio, 24 October, 1862, as a result. He went to his home in Indianapolis, IN to await orders that never came.

The capture of Chattanooga would wait until next year.

Kentucky was secure.

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